Saturday, 12 November 2011

Skirling Graveyard

Skirling is a very small place in between the A701 and A702 roads in the Scottish Borders. I went there this past Thursday for my Artist's Date. I was a bit worried when I set off as it was raining heavily but by the time I arrived (only some 20 minutes later) the sun was coming out and it turned into a beautiful day. The graveyard lies on a hilltop overlooking Skirling and apparently there used to be an iron-age fort on the same spot as the present graveyard in the far distant past. There is a little church in the graveyard, now Church of Scotland and with weekly services still taking place according to the sign on the main road.

Due to it's high location the views are fabulous such as here where the gravestones are silhouetted against the hills in the distance and the blue sky.



The path runs from one end of the graveyard to the other and at beginning and exit (above) is enhanced with beautiful cast iron gates, which were donated by the local Carmichael family some of whose graves are located in a far corner of the graveyard. The graveyard is also adorned with large and mature yew trees which, at least to my mind, really belong to graveyards and add to the general gloominess even on a sunny day.


There are many old gravestones to be found in this graveyard, almost too many to take in during one visit (although I stayed most of the morning). This is one that really caught my attention. The text on it has long gone, but it had a gorgous winged soul, lovely pillars along the side and the hour-glass, symbol of mortality, at the top.


This angel is guarding the entrance to the are where various members of the above mentioned Carmichael family are buried. There are tablets set into the wall, commemorating their names but although these are relatively recent, going into the 20th Century, they were very difficult to read, much harder in fact that most other graves here which are much older.



Finally Skirling Graveyard has a famous (or at least well-known in his lifetime) artist buried there as you can see above. Notice the palette on his gravestone. The inscription reads:


Here rest

the remains of

James Howe, artist

son of the Reverend William Howe

minister of Skirling

born 30th August 1780

died 14th July 1836


He who could make with life the canvas glow

in death's deep slumber lies this turf below

But death which triumphs o'er the mouldering time

dims not the luster of the painter's fame

Erected by his admirers

in his native parish.


James Howe is mainly known for his animal paintings including the Horse Fair at Skirling which shows the place full of life, horses and play. A stark contrast to the peaceful, quiet town I found during my visit. James Howe also painted scenes from the Battle of Waterloo but intriguingly it states in the 1871 book Monuments and Monumental Inscriptions in Scotland, Volume 1, by the Reverend Charles Rogers that "his habits were latterly unworthy of his genius" The mind boggles!!! Despite this he was buried in hallowed ground, perhaps due to the fact that his father was the minister.


It was another great Artist's Date. The peaceful atmosphere of graveyards is very conducive to getting lost in your own thoughts which is really what it's meant to be all about. Apart from that the gravestones themselves and the images thereon are inspirational to me as an artist. The fact that the low sun made long shadows of the gravestones, as well as the yew trees, on the grass was an added bonus I hadn't expected.

1 comment:

Lenna Young Andrews said...

I agree, it looks to me as if it were a fabulous artist's date for you, frieda. There was so much beauty to be had there between the beautiful setting on the hill, the yew trees, the gravestones . . . i do like the one that caught your attention, the winged soul is full of feeling. The artists palette on James Howe's gravestone was lovely. I looked at his painting you linked and he reminded me of my great uncle's earlier work. I think it is so important you are doing "artists dates" even if you sometimes feel like you are squeezing them in, they are so nourishing. xoxo

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